The wife of the former Interpol chief being held in China on corruption charges has applied for asylum in France, her spokesperson has said.
Grace Meng was put under police protection in the central French city of Lyon soon after her husband Hongwei’s disappearance amid concerns she may be kidnapped, her lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told the Reuters news agency.
The radio station France Info cited her as saying that strangers have followed her, received suspicious phone calls, and had her car license plates photographed by mysterious people.
“I need the French government to protect, to assist and help my children and me,” she told France Info.
“I am afraid I may be kidnapped.”
Meng Hongwei, the first Chinese boss of Lyon-based international law enforcement agency, disappeared in September after traveling back to his native China. France opened an inquiry, and Beijing said he was under investigation for bribery.
He’s not been heard of since a WhatsApp message to his wife on Sept. 25 saying “wait for my call,” and then a knife emoji signifying danger. Interpol said they received a short message from Meng, a former Chinese vice-minister for public security, saying he was resigning.
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French newspaper Liberation cited Grace Meng as saying she had been visited by two Chinese businessmen, one of whom she knew. The pair asked for investment advice from the economist and invited her to travel with them by private jet to the Czech Republic.
In late October, she was asked by the Chinese consulate in Lyon to visit them in person to collect a letter from her husband. She refused, insisting that they pass the letter to French police, or that French police be allowed to go with her to the consulate.
China, meanwhile, says it offered to facilitate a call between Meng and his wife, and that it protects the legitimate rights of all citizens, no matter what situation they find themselves in.
China’s public security bureau has linked Meng’s detention to a broader initiative to “completely remove the pernicious influence” of Zhou Yongkang, a former security czar was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.
French authorities declined to comment on the asylum request. It is unclear where Meng is being held.
mm/rc (AFP, Reuters)